Streetwise: Pioneering spirit

By
November 16, 2008 10:42

British doctor David Eder lent his name and legacy to a Habonim training center, and later to a special Haifa street.




Streetwise: Pioneering spirit

Rehov David Eder 88 248. (photo credit:Wendy Blumfield )

Rehov David Eder, Haifa For British immigrants, the name David Eder evokes nostalgia, for Eder Farm in Sussex in southern England was the Habonim training center (hachshara) for wannabe kibbutzniks from the 1930s until the late 1960s. Many a long-lasting romance began in the drafty cowsheds and windswept fields or singing and dancing in the common room. After Eder's death in 1936, the main farm at Horsham was appropriately named for this Zionist icon, psychoanalyst and educator. Rehov David Eder in the Ahuza neighborhood of Haifa is a quiet, low-density street built in a forested area, whose homes are surrounded by gardens and foliage and most have a spectacular view of the sea. But for the Habonim trainees, the transition from the soggy farmlands of Sussex to the harsh and barren hills of pre-state Palestine was not always as easy or pastoral as the Haifa street, as recalled by the late Shalom Bardoley of Kfar Blum in his story written by his nephew Allen Bardoley. "Life down at the farm was difficult, there were many problems and the learning curve was steep." But when he together with nine comrades received their aliya certificates in 1936, the reality of the challenge was beyond their wildest imagination, learning new farming methods, limited Hebrew, illness and physical danger from hostile neighbors. "There was no basalt rock at Eder Farm," an old-timer at Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi once said. "We spent the first years shlepping out those boulders so that we could plant and build - and years later broke our backs bringing them back again to build bomb shelters." Nevertheless Eder Farm filled an essential role in training and maintaining the interest of young potential immigrants while they awaited their aliya. Some of them graduated as youth leaders so they were able to accompany refugee ships without using the limited certificates. In 1938 the late Teddy Kollek was sent to Britain as an emissary for Habonim and his aliya contact center was located at Eder Farm. During World War II, Britain needed more agriculture and farmworkers. Habonim acquired some of the government housing barracks for hachshara, but Eder was the first independent farm. It was also a haven for some of the older Kindertransport children, and Kathe Strenitz, one of the 669 Winton children who were rescued from Czechoslovakia by Sir Nicholas Winton, recalls in her memoirs that after several difficult billets she made her way to Eder Farm. As the farm outlived its usefulness for immigrants in waiting, it was used for youth movement seminars into the 1960s and this writer remembers preparing for her aliya experience at Young Poale Zion weekends, learning about A.D. Gordon and dancing the hora all night. WHO WAS David Montagu Eder that farms and streets were named after him? Born in 1865 in London, he started his medical school studies in general practice and pediatrics. He was particularly interested in education and established the first network of school clinics in London. Later he specialized in psychoanalysis, worked with Carl Jung and was analyzed by Sigmund Freud. In 1915, during World War I, as an army doctor he was one of the first to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder, writing a book, War Shock, in 1917. Eder later distanced himself from Jung and he became president of the British Psychoanalytical Society in 1932. A cousin of the writer Israel Zangwill, friend of D.H. Lawrence and a sparring partner of George Bernard Shaw, he associated himself with socialist politics in Jewish and non-Jewish circles. Eder identified with the Zionist cause throughout his adult life. In the 1920s he lived and worked in Palestine, running seminars on psychoanalysis. His wife, Edith, was a founder of WIZO, and it was after they met Chaim Weizmann that he began actively working for the Zionist movement, elected as representative of the Zionist Executive in Palestine, later becoming president of the British Zionist Federation. It was London-born Barry Nathan, an Eder Farm graduate who recommended a book with multiple references to the colorful and adventurous life of David Eder during his time in Palestine. Nathan had a special interest in the subject. He and his wife, Lottie, a kindertransport survivor, first met at Eder Farm in 1949. They were in the first Habonim settlement group at Kibbutz Amiad and today they live in Haifa in a street parallel to Eder. According to Tom Segev, journalist and author of One Palestine Complete, it was Eder's sojourn in Palestine which strengthened his Zionist ideals, also changing him from a moderate into a militant. Like Weizmann, he worked from within the British establishment to implement the Balfour Declaration, and in his membership of the Fabian Society, the core of British socialism, he was a respected and dynamic influence on the British government. He clashed violently with David Ben-Gurion and Menahem Mendel Ussishkin, whom he considered as "Russian hotheads" and preferred Weizmann's quiet diplomacy. He had rejected the tendency toward separation of Jews and Arabs and believed that the Jewish state could be part of a regional federation with Arab countries. However it was the violence of the Jaffa riots of 1921 that caused him to oppose dividing Palestine into two states. He said: "There is only one national home and that is Jewish." He was devastated and embittered by what he saw as a betrayal by the British leaders and the impotence of the British Mandate police to control the Jaffa riots. Prior to this he was almost an eyewitness to the legend of Tel Hai in 1920. Because of Arab hostilities, the Jewish leaders were considering evacuating Upper Galilee. Ze'ev Jabotinsky judged it was not a time for martyrdom, but Ben-Gurion opposed him, claiming that to leave that region would be a sign of weakness. Eder and a Zionist delegation traveled north to try to settle the dispute but arrived too late. A stray shot precipitated the battle in which Joseph Trumpeldor was fatally wounded. On returning to Britain, Eder continued to activate Zionism within British politics while advancing brilliantly in his medical career. When he died, his passion for education and Zionism lived on in the hachshara farm which produced some of Israel's finest immigrants, kibbutzniks and town dwellers whose children and grandchildren continue to build the land. This diversity is reflected in the residents of that quiet green Rehov David Eder, the elderly in the sheltered accommodation, the young families in the apartment houses, the modern Orthodox and the secular.

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